Dear CAAT Academic Faculty,
We fully understand your confusion and frustration with the events of yesterday and today. Please know that your bargaining team remains committed to getting a deal and getting the students back into class as quickly as possible. Our goal is to get the CEC back to the table to reach the negotiated settlement we were working towards, but we also need to prepare to reject the Council’s forced offer vote.
We anticipate that you have many questions, and we have put together the following in response.
Negotiations resumed on Thursday and continued on the weekend. Council called us back to the table through the mediator but refused to divulge that it was essentially on the same deal as when the strike was called. Nevertheless, the union team engaged and slowly started to see some progress. The union modified its stance on a few issues, and the CEC indicated they would remove some of the concessions that they were demanding. A significant gain made by the team and the government was to establish a Provincial Task Force that will be funded and facilitated by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. The Task Force would address the staffing complement issue (50/50 ratio demand) and precarious work, as well as collegial governance. In addition, all recommendations from the Task Force will be brought to Cabinet for funding consideration.
As of Sunday night, the only significant issue left on the table was the no-cost academic freedom language, and pushing back against Council’s concessions. The union team felt that a deal could be reached by Monday morning. Instead, the CEC came to the table Monday morning, refused to engage in any further negotiations, tabled an offer with further concessions added, and indicated they had made the request of the OLRB to schedule a forced offer vote. This is a scenario the team had known was possible though we had hoped that the Council would not be so callous as to jeopardize the semester, if not the whole academic year, for students and faculty alike. Once again Council and the college presidents who advise them are showing complete disregard for post-secondary education and their students’ lives.
How long will a vote take?
A best guess is anywhere from five days to two weeks. There are many details to work out. The parties are currently at the OLRB discussing the details of the vote and more information will be provided once the OLRB makes a decision.
Will we stay out on strike during the vote?
Yes. There is no other option. We must continue to stand together in solidarity. Pragmatically speaking, the union cannot call off a strike when there is no negotiated agreement in place and no return-to-work agreement. To go back to work and run classes for a week or two while voting logistics are worked out would remove all pressure on the Colleges. We all want to be back in the classroom and helping our students, but those would be terrible circumstances under which to return. The Council will try to play this up in the media as the union prolonging the strike, but make no mistake, they are the ones prolonging things. This could have been wrapped up today had they been willing to negotiate in good faith. If they were going to do a forced offer vote, the time to do that was weeks ago, not now.
Is this really just about Academic Freedom?
No, it is also about the serious concessions in the Council’s offer as explained in more detail below. However, academic freedom should not be dismissed as a minor issue. The fact that they are so resistant on this issue should be cause for alarm. This is about faculty making academic decisions for our courses and for the benefit of our students. That includes having a say in evaluation methods, delivery methods, final marks, textbook selection, course design, content, and research. Currently, management has all final decision making power, and there is no way to challenge this except by including this language in our collective agreement.
Some faculty do get to make some of these decisions, but it is important to remember this is always at the whim of management. Faculty’s professional opinion on academic matters—and grades—can be overridden at any time and for any reason by a supervisor. There are many cases where managers apply pressure to change final grades, and others where final grades have been changed without the professor’s knowledge and outside of any formal grade appeal. Faculty input into academic decision-making has eroded to the point where faculty have no real input into delivery modes (online, hybrid etc…), pre-requisites and co-requisites, and even weekly outlines. Evaluation factors on SWFs are often changed arbitrarily. Faculty have been directed to switch to automated tests in many courses. These decisions should not be exclusively in the hands of management. Academic managers often have no prior background in education or teaching experience, and they are not experts in, or even knowledgeable about, the subject matter being taught. The bottom line is that the integrity of programs is being compromised.
The faculty team’s proposal is clear: we are not asking for exclusive and absolute control, but at least an equal say in these matters. As it stands, administrators are the ones with exclusive control.
Doesn’t this offer address academic freedom?
No. While it is entitled, “Academic Freedom,” the letter of understanding on academic freedom is actually a reiteration in large part of the harassment language already existing in the collective agreement. In addition, this is a letter of understanding that contemplates all 24 colleges have a college specific policy on academic freedom. However, these are policies that largely already exist and have given rise to the very problems we are trying to address this very round. These policies would create more restrictions on us than we currently have. This letter does nothing to address our role in academic decision making in our own courses and undermines any role we do have.
What concessions are in the offer?
- Weakens Article 2 by explicitly excluding Part-Time faculty work and therefore removes limits on the colleges’ use of part-time rather than full-time employees
- Weakens Article 2 by removing the conversion language for sessional employees (article 2.03C) creating one less pathway to more full-time jobs
- The addition of these 2.04 and 2.05 are clear concessions in relation to Bill 148. By adding this language to article 2, management is attempting to say that the work performed by contract faculty is not substantially similar to that of full-time faculty. This would mean the equal pay for equal work provisions of Bill-148 would not apply to partial-load faculty.
- Changes to Article 11.01 J1 would remove overtime limits for full-time faculty which will further reduce full-time numbers, make it more difficult to grieve full-time positions and increase stress on full-time employees
- Attack on 11.01 B1 that would remove the maximum number of weeks a teacher could teach
- Proposed change to 11.01 D3 would remove the provision to give SWF credit for curriculum development completed in non-teaching period
- Lessening faculty input into and Increasing management control over faculty PD
- Restricting our rights to free expression
- Our proposal on academic freedom enshrines into the collective agreement and clearly identifies our rights, responsibilities and limits within the article. Management’s proposal is to have letter that needs to be renewed in subsequent collective agreements. Their language enshrines inequity between faculty teaching at different colleges.
- Includes the same deeply flawed Return to Work protocol that saw over 1,400 unresolved grievances from the 2006 strike.
This is a bad offer that must be rejected. Instead of addressing the core issue of fairness and quality, Council’s proposal would have devastating and negative consequences on the college system for the next generation.
There is still a chance to get a solution at the table. Keep up the pressure: contact your college presidents, Don Sinclair CEO of the College Council, your MPP, the Premier and the Minister and tell them to get Council back to the table. There was no reason for the Council to walk away from the table, we can finish this quickly. There is no reason to prolong the strike other than to try and starve us out. This is bullying not bargaining.
If we stand together now we will show them we are stronger than ever and we will win this. Your team appreciates your support and is resolved to see this round of bargaining through to the end. We are all in this together: college faculty, teachers, university faculty, students and contract workers everywhere.
Your Bargaining Team